Stop church burning


Editorial: Stop church burning
The Jakarta Post | Tue, 01/26/2010 10:11 AM | Opinion
We bet most people are not happy about the burning of churches in North Sumatra on Friday night. As a Muslim-majority nation, we are a proud democracy. And we have had enough Christian-Muslim conflicts in the past, notably the Ambon and Poso conflicts. We are also an emerging multicultural nation with a proud legacy of religious pluralism. However, the trajectory of a nation toward its maturity is often difficult to fathom.
Our minds promptly turn to religious leaders and the many interfaith dialogues that have been held.
We are afraid that they might have only churned out sweet talk and exacerbated such conflicts.
We are also concerned that there is a big gap dividing religious leaders and those at the grass roots.
The question is how to close this gap.
Past experience has taught us that religious conflicts often mask the real issues beneath them.
One of the causes of the previous Ambon conflict between Christians and Muslims in Ambon that began in the late 1990s is understood as a perceived shift in the makeup of the bureaucracy. What was once a Christian-heavy civil service in the predominantly Christian community, slowly gave way to a majority Muslim one when Soeharto played the Islamic card in attempt to stay in power.
This was also related to the similar follow-up conflict in Poso that turned the once beautiful town of Central Sulawesi into a ghost town following the hellish destruction. Blood and tears were shed in both communities. Thousands of lives perished in the wars and a sustained suffering of immense proportions has since haunted the communities.
Small-scale tensions between Christians and Muslims, like the rash of attacks against churches in Jakarta in recent years, have often stemmed from trivialities such as disputes over the control of parking fees, but they have been reported as religious conflicts nonetheless. The media is partly to blame for this as it is often too lazy to report the real issue.
It is a public secret that in some cases unscrupulous elements treat plans to construct churches as a potential way to extort bribes. These elements do not oppose church construction as such; they just identify the cash benefits behind it. Still, however, the public sees it as an affront against Christians.
It is with such cautiousness that we have to view the North Sumatra incident, where two churches and a pastor’s home were set on fire, allegedly by a Muslim mob. We know that dealing with such a geographically diverse area such as the predominantly Muslim South Tapanuli and its neighbor, the predominantly Christian North Tapanuli, requires sensible handling. Particularly as this was the first time such attacks have occurred in the region.
Learning from the past, we cannot rule out the intrusion of outsiders in Tapanuli. There will always be elements that will take advantage of religious conflicts for their own political interests.
Unfortunately, too often people will take the law into their own hands in such circumstances. To prevent this from happening, we need a professional police force that will not take sides. The way the police have handled the incident in Padang Lawas regency in Sibuhuan, where not a single perpetrator was held days after the arson attacks, is not a good example.


1. Pemerintah lemah karena tidak tegas dan konsekuen dalam penegakan hukum melawan kejahatan yang berkembang seperti lumut di musim hujan.

2. Para pemimpin agama tidak mampu mengidentifikasi dan memberikan posisi jelas kepada mereka yane ekstrim dan radikal.

3. Kita sebagai bangsa harus segera pamit dari budaya basa-basi dan menerapkan budaya keseriusan. Budaya basa-basi secara tidak langsung menjadi instrumen yang meninabobokan masyarakat, takut membuat kritik dan para penjahat bisa menyembunyikan segala yang jahat di balik senyum manis dan bahasa basa-basi.


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